The Fellowship Of His Sufferings

John David Clark, Sr. - July, 1994

I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ...that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. - the apostle Paul

One of the constant marvels to the person searching for biblical truth is how truthful Jesus was. He lived and taught at what may be called the "gut level" of life. We are so accustomed in this age to hearing religious catch phrases that, despite our best efforts, we read Jesus' words as if they were spoken in the same way and for the same flowery purpose. But repeatedly, as we come to understand truth from God, we stand in awe of Jesus and realize that he never spoke religious words just to impress his listeners. His words were real and absolutely true. He was completely without pretence, and completely without showiness.

When Jesus said that few people would find the way of eternal life, he was not using scare tactics to persuade men to follow him. He was telling the truth. He was not overstating his case when he warned us that it would be better to cut off our hands and pluck out our eyes rather than to allow them to lead us astray and to suffer the eternal torments of the Lake of Fire. He was telling the truth, simply and directly. It was no idle threat when Jesus warned the Pharisees who opposed him that unless they believed that he was the Christ, they would die in their sins. And he wasn't just "blowing off steam" when he called them children of the devil. He was telling the truth, though they could not believe it at all! He was expressing, as always, the judgments of the Father. That is why Jesus himself is called "the Word of God".

As a result of his confession of the truth, without adding to it or deleting from it, Jesus was hated above all men. We know that Satan would rather that men not repent and be filled with the holy Ghost; still, he can tolerate it - as long as they do not come to the knowledge of God and be like Jesus after they are born of the Spirit. Satan would rather that the saints not have faith for healing and miracles, that they not interpret tongues and prophesy; yet, he can tolerate those things - as long as the truth is not proclaimed plainly and simply. Yes, Satan can tolerate conversion - provided that he controls what men are taught after they are converted! He himself sends missionaries around the world to bring the heathen to Christ - as he defines Christ to be. I understand that this next statement may be extremely difficult for some to hear, but it is the truth! In this New Covenant era, Christianity has served as Satan's greatest tool of deception, just as in the last days of the Old Covenant, Judaism served that same evil purpose (Mt.23:15).

Satan's greatest fear is that the children of God will come to know the truth. Therefore, Satan's greatest target of hatred are those few who are proclaiming the truth to the church. He knows, more than God's own children know, that it is the truth alone which will make the saints free. Untold thousands of God's children today are going the wrong way and failing in their quest to serve God acceptably because they are not being taught the truth. As it was in the Old Covenant, so it is now: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hos.4:6).

The man who dares to try to supply to the church the knowledge which it now lacks will suffer such hatred as few have known. Jesus was accused at various times of being a liar, a bastard, a rebel against Roman authority, a heretic, a deceiver, a man cursed by God, a whoremonger, a blasphemer, and a traitor to the nation of Israel. The one falseaccusation against him which was particularly effective in turning people away from him was that he was demon-possessed. He seldom defended himself against these charges, but on one occasion he confronted his accusers face-to-face. Those accusers were clergymen, experienced, well-respected and admired - even feared - by the people of God. Listen to this excerpt from John 8:

Jesus said unto them, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man who hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God. This did not Abraham. He that is of God heareth God's words. Ye therefore hear them not because ye are not of God."

Then answered [the rulers of] the Jews, "Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil?"

Jesus answered, "I have not a devil, but I honor my father, and ye do dishonor me...."

Then said [the rulers of] the Jews, "...we know that thou hast a devil."

If Jesus had cast out demons, raised the dead, healed broken and diseased bodies, and then preached one (or more) of the doctrines of the leaders of Israel, he would have been highly exalted by both men and Satan. But he was hated because of the truth. On trial for his life, Jesus told his Roman judge, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice" (Jn.18:37). When Jesus' own relatives accused him of being mentally deranged and would not believe in him, he answered, "The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil."

Jesus was hated because he told God's people the truth. And it is only when a man suffers for telling the truth to the church that he can know what the "fellowship of the sufferings of Christ" really is. It is only when a man is sent by God with some good thing for the saints and then is hated by them for bringing it, that he can understand what bearing the burden of Christ really means. Paul knew, because he was sent with a revelation from God to the saints and in the end was rejected by the very ones he had brought into the fold. As an old man, he saw the apostasy of the church taking place and lamented to his faithful son Timothy, "All they of Asia have forsaken me."

Like Jesus, Paul was falsely accused of much, yet he persevered for the sake of the few who would love the truth he had to give them. He was beaten with rods, stoned, slandered, and rejected. "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus", he wrote of his wounds. Yet, he did not regret receiving those scars. On the contrary, Paul, like Peter, rejoiced that he was worthy to suffer for the sake of his Lord. He knew that only those who confess the truth and suffer with Christ will reign with him (2Tim.2:12). Paul would have agreed wholeheartedly with Peter when he taught that one evidence that a man has ceased from sin is that the world hates him enough to hurt him (1Pet.4:1).

The saints here with me are holding forth the word of life to the church abroad, despite much of the same persecutions suffered by our Lord and those who stood for his truth in their day. The saints here are, in my view, some of the "cream of the crop" in the kingdom of God on the earth today. Still, we are falsely accused of immorality, of covetousness, of heresy, of being false prophets and "smooth talkers", and too many other things to mention. As in Jesus' day, there is now one particular accusation which has a powerful affect upon God's people. With him, it was "demon-possessed." Simply accusing Jesus of that prevented some from hearing him and being saved. In our day, the "in" accusation is "cult." The word, "cult" is fashionable now among Christians who refuse to repent and believe the truth, but who want to make it appear as if they are doing the right thing by rejecting it. The fear of being branded a cult member prevents some of God's children from making an honest search for the truth. This fear is the fear of man, not of God, and it will cost many their souls. The truth is that Christianity itself is entirely - in all its parts - the greatest cult of all. It opposes every holy thing which God through Christ Jesus has given to His children, and yet exalts itself as God's representative body on earth! But the spirit of the Psalmist encourages us to keep our minds on God, not on our detractors. This friend of God wrote, "Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in awe of thy word."

Jesus said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

In Christianity, a person is persecuted for not partaking of the religion, for not "going to church", for not "attending Sunday school", for not "getting saved", for not "joining the church of your choice", etc. In Christ, one is persecuted for obeying the truth and leaving the rest behind.Has your religion brought to you any persecution at all? If not, it is not of Christ. It is of the devil, and you are on your way to damnation. The Scriptures lead us to no other possible conclusion.

We have yet to suffer physically for obedience to God, and so we know that sin is still somewhere in the camp. Regardless of the costs, however, we are determined to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death - if by any means we may attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Pray for us here and for all the saints that the true gospel may at long last be heard again, and that we may all please the Father, whose heart was expressed by the apostle John when he wrote, "I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I HAVE NO GREATER JOY THAN TO HEAR THAT MY CHILDREN WALK IN TRUTH" (3Jn.3,4).


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